Architecture of the first and second Goetheanum

The First Goetheanum (1913-1922)

In the rented hall of the Munich State Theatre, the Mystery Plays of Rudolf Steiner were performed each year between 1910 and 1913. The wish arose within the circle around Rudolf Steiner to build an appropriately designed building for these and for performances of eurhythmy. As there were many obstacles from the side of the authorities in Munich, it was decided to redesign the building to be erected on donated land in Dornach near Basel/Switzerland.

Construction began in 1913, meeting with delays during the First World War. Still incomplete, the building burnt down on New Year’s Eve of 1922/23.

The central element, already present in the project in Munich was the ground plan: 2 domes of different sizes resting on 2 large rotundas and interlinked with one another. Because of their particular proportions, they gave the impression both of a single, sculpted space, or also one consisting of 2 separate portions. The pillars along the interior of the building connected with earlier epochs in the development of architecture. Yet each pillar was sculpted individually with a base and a capital whose motifs were carved in such a manner that each new one derived its forms from elements of the previous one. It was Steiner’s attempt to incorporate into the design the laws underlying all development from one form to another in the living world, as in Goethe’s theory of metamorphosis, and to give to these new forms of artistic expression.

Architecture thereby departs from the static, “dead” state and begins to take on elements of a path of animated development. The arts of architecture, sculpture, painting and stained glass windows were united to create a space for the other arts – music, drama and eurhythmy. The building represents an effort to assist what slumbers in each human being as a higher element into full fruition.

The Second Goetheanum (1924-1928)

The second Goetheanum was built as a centre for the worldwide anthroposophical activities that had developed. It is the seat of the General Anthroposophical Society and also the School of Spiritual Science with its different sections. The building was erected in the period from 1925-1928, in concrete, as a replacement for the old one. The general concept was similar to the other: a large hall, with between 900 and 1000 seats and a stage for dramatic productions (the “Faust” of Goethe, the Mystery Plays of Rudolf Steiner and a variety others), for eurhythmy and for lectures.

Rudolf Steiner created an exterior model for the 2nd Goetheanum, which was the basis for the later working drawings. Due to his death in the spring of 1925, he was no longer able to participate in its realization.

The 1st Goetheanum was strongly influenced by its inherent geometric relationships. The individual forms, however, were led into living movement. In the second, we now find the entire building penetrated by this movement. In the East, it resembles a closed cube, which, however, as one moves westward, becomes increasingly dynamic and mobile. It gives the appearance of harbouring some mystery within it when looked at from the east, and this finds its realisation and revelation out into the world the further one moves west.

Thus there are two polar opposites that find expression in the building. The one is closed within itself, hides something within it, tends to heaviness, to gravity (east). The other opens to the world, reveals what it is and tends to lightness (west). But a third force is also expressed by the building, which grasps hold of the first two and unites them. It leads both into a movement on higher level.

The Buildings Around the Goetheanum

Rudolf Steiner designed a number of buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Goetheanum. They form a harmonious unity with the main building and with the landscaping which also stems largely from him.

Luigi Fiumara, Henning Schulze-Schilddorf

(Translated by Eric Hurner)